The Good Knight (The Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mysteries, Book 1)

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Good Knight (The Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mysteries, Book 1)
Sarah Woodbury, 2011

Premise: When Gwen and her family stumble upon a murder on their way to a wedding at the Welsh king’s court, the last person she expects to run into is her old flame Gareth.

I saw this book offered as a free promotion just when I was thinking that I wanted a relatively light series to get into. The book's not bad, but I don't think I'll be reading any more in the series.

The book (and series) is set in Wales in the 1100s, and the historical setting seems sound for the most part. The characters, the story, and the style were just too bland for me.

Gwen is spunky, Gareth is good-hearted, the villain is fairly ridiculously villainous. The only character with some intriguing nuance is the Welsh king's illegitimate son, who both Gwen and Gareth work for (as an informant/observer and a knight respectively).

I finished reading the book, but I could feel myself rushing through the second half as the plot got more and more melodramatic and I just didn't care. I got the book partially because of an Amazon review that complained that the book was much more a mystery than a romance, but I could have used much more mystery than I got.

I'm just spoiled by the style and tone of the Cadfael books. This is too close in setting and aspirations for it to be satisfying.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

Company of Liars

Monday, May 6, 2019

Company of Liars
Karen Maitland, 2008

Premise: Nine people travel north through England in 1348, trying to outrun the plague. Each of them hides a secret that might cost their life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, marketed as a “reinterpretation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.” It does contain travel and storytelling, but it has more in common with a mystery novel or a horror movie than that tagline would lead you to believe.

And that’s all to the good. The historical detail is complex but never oppressive or distracting, but it’s the characters that carry the story. Each character is one thing on the surface and quite another in reality. The reveals are gradual and natural. The narrative is broken up by stories the characters tell, often to throw others off the trail toward the truth.

This is historical fiction that plays out much like a psychological thriller, with a steadily rising sense of foreboding punctuated by violence and death.

It’s a compelling, solidly written piece, and it includes enough fantastical elements to have this genre fan considering classifying it as fantasy as well.

[Content Warning: This book contains extremely violent anti-Semitism and homophobia appropriate to the historical setting.]

4 Stars - A Very Good Book